Transparency as a Key to Successful Partnership

I believe in teamwork, based on passion, trust and respect…

When the new project starts, every good team should believe and believes in its success. In reverse order of this statement we can say that every project success requires a good team. So, the question is how to become a good team and what are the attributes?

Trust starts with transparency

It is known that in software development the stackholders/business side is privileged to choose the teams for their projects. They do the learning curve of developer's profiles, see their ratings, study team's previous experience, form their impression on the basis of sales managers feedback etc. So these are the baby steps the client does to get to know his team and this is the first moment when he starts to build his expectations of team's performance. The team, on the contrary, doesn’t have chance to get acquainted with the client beforehand, they have to accept him as he is and work together on successful and perfectly balanced partnership. It is a recognized truth that no matter which type of relationship you are in, it will be successful when based on trust. In development, trust between client and the team, is a result of a long and meticulous process.

One of the most powerful instruments for building trust is transparency. Let's define "transparency" within the context of development.

Transparency is the ability to see what is truly happening to the entire or any part of the project at any point in time, under any circumstance, in any level of detail.

Establishing and maintaining trust in working relationships

Now, we'll check also the trust growth process on Transparency-Trust Matrix:

Transparency-Trust Matrix

So the scene starter is the A point. This is the beginning of the project, a moment when the team and the client are actually getting to know each other, receiving first impressions. At this level we all learn to trust each other, although, the team is more motivated. It is in the team's interests to draw client's attention to the process, encourage him to take an active role in it and be on the same foot with team members. The aim of a team is to be proactive and fully involve the client into development process. On this stage the team has to show a high level of openness and transparency. Yes, basically it means to follow thoroughly all the rules of communication: short catch up calls every day, daily reports, shared iteration planning, common valuable input while user stories discussion.

Drawing a parallel with the romantic relationships, it is, so called, peacock-feathers courting stage. This way we are slowly moving to point B. At this point, the client starts to show some signs of trust to the team (as he is already its member) but of course the feeling is weak yet and he is doubtful. Therefore, he already knows better his guys, he can define their weak and strong sides, he is able to see their capabilities and compare the real outcome with his first impression. Due to high transparency level on the beginning, this first comparison is mostly positive.

After experiencing the first achievements and triumphs together, like successful build of prototype that attracted investors, first release in time or dexterous problem solving, we got to C point and we reached the trust goal. The client already trusts his team and he is ready to move forward, now we are in it together. At this stage, the team members know the client better. They already know what fails can be forgiven and they are aware what is being expected from their performance. The transparency on this level is consistently high and the client is always posted about the progress.

Since the development of a project is a long-term collaboration, there are certain moments when the client is slipping away from the team. At this times he can be involved in other processes like promoting the product among target audience. I would say this is the moment when different kinds of temptation born. The client is not that demanding as he had been at the beginning and he is quite sure about the effectiveness of the team he had chosen. Often the team interprets such clients' behavior as if he is already trustful and now they can go forward on their own.

This is the period when frequent meetings become rare, daily reports disappear, planning game together is not that important any more. The overall communication becomes poor. So now we are at D point. The point when the client's trust is at its maximum. We can live a short lifecycle with the attitude like this, because starting from now, every mistake or fail is crucial. Be sure that the team will be to blame if something goes wrong and, eventually, it will. This way, we can say that as attractive as D point might seem, it is not permanent and leads back to point A.

Conclusion

Therefore, it is worth to say that the most effective collaboration is at C point. From C point we can move down to point B but it is not that critical any more. Yes, consistent transparency is a plod but it is definitely worth to go through. Often it requires a lot of extra efforts, like when you try to talk sense into client to use this simpler scenario for all good reasons but he always tends to complexity. But staying visible and comprehensible to your client prevents the partnership aggravation.

Along with trust we also get some benefits for ourselves:

  • before making up some extra fantastic feature for the project, the client will ask your advice first and everyone will agree it is easier to discuss together the features than dealing with clients' pies in the sky;
  • client's trust will reward you with interesting and nontrivial assignments;
  • he will recommend you to his partners;
  • he will take your side in case you'll need advocacy (if you work with organisation for example);
  • your job will be paid in time and without long discussions.

The importance of transparency in project management for IT teams cannot be overestimated. The result of perfectly balanced transparency and trust is respect.

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